Weight management was a nightmare for me. I was constantly counting calories, trying new diets, excessively working out, restricting, then bingeing after my willpower finally gave in from rigid meal plans and unsatisfying food. This brought me through the cycle of lose, gain, lose, gain and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.
If you’re experiencing this I want you to know, there is nothing wrong with you. You just aren’t nourishing your body with what it wants and needs. The quickest and easiest way to begin doing this is to eat real food that keeps your blood sugar in balance. Weight loss happens between meals when our blood sugar is balanced and we don’t have excess insulin.
(Note: People with Type 1 diabetes are not the audience I am speaking to.)
So what is blood sugar exactly?
Blood sugar is simply the amount of sugar, or glucose, in your blood which comes from consuming carbohydrates. During digestion, carbs are broken down into sugar molecules and sent into your bloodstream which naturally raises blood sugar levels. The pancreas then releases the hormone, insulin, in attempt to regulate blood sugar levels by stimulating movement out of your blood and into your cells where it can be used for energy which brings your blood sugar back down. However, the body can only use a certain amount of sugar so if excess sugar present, it is stored as fat and weight gain happens.
So what happens when you limit your carbohydrates?
Your blood sugar levels even out as a result of limited carbs and insulin secretion decreases. Low insulin levels promote the shift from sugar (glucose) being the body’s primary energy source, to fat (fatty acids) being the primary energy source. Using energy from fat rather than sugar is much more efficient for the body and you begin burning the stored fat already on your body.
While carbohydrates cause the most significant effects on blood glucose levels, I want to be clear…
Not all carbs are “bad”
There is a difference between simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates are quickly digested, often low in fiber and nutrients, and commonly high in added sugars. Think of foods like white breads and pastas, candy, baked goods, sodas, and most processed foods. Because of how easily they can be digested by the body, you feel an energy rush shortly after consuming them. But what goes up, must come down. These simple carbs burn quickly and when your body burns through them all, your blood sugar drops. This is the “crashing” feeling you surely have experienced before after eating foods like pizza, cake, or noodles. You’re hungry just a short time later regardless of how much you just ate of these foods. Your body recognizes that it got a “quick fix” from simple carbohydrates and signals to your brain to consume more. Then the cycle happens all over causing you to eat more and more of the wrong foods.
Complex carbohydrates differ from simple carbs because they are made of longer chain of sugars that take longer to digest which allows for a gradual release of energy into the cells. Think quinoa, whole and sprouted grains, sweet potato, sorghum, peas, and beans. Complex carbs often contain good amounts of fiber, as well as nutrients, minerals, and phytonutrients which aid in providing energy. Fiber is important because it keeps you feeling fuller longer. Due to the longer digestion time and “time-released” energy from complex carbs, you won’t experience the blood sugar rollercoaster caused by simple carbs. Because fiber assists in keeping you satiated, you won’t feel the need to overeat or eat as often.
Key note here is to avoid simple carbs as much as possible.
So how do you eat in a way that doesn’t send your blood sugar levels all over the map?
Fat. Fiber. Protein. I repeat! FAT. FIBER. PROTEIN. Every single meal you eat should have an adequate amount of healthy fats, fiber, and protein.
The Break Down of the magical trifecta of fat, fiber, and protein…
Fatty acids (fats) and amino acids (protein) are essential nutrients. Carbohydrates are not. Essential nutrients are required for normal functioning of the body that must be obtained through diet because the body cannot make it in sufficient quantities to meet the body’s needs.
Healthy fats are satiating. They fill you up and send a hormonal message to your brain to stop eating. You are far less likely to binge on avocados, nut butters, nuts and seeds, salmon, or beef than you are on chips, crackers, or tortillas. Fats also buffer the carbs you do consume, so your blood sugar won’t spike as much when you eat them. This is because fat slows down the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. For example, you could eat a banana by itself (which doesn’t fill you up), it will likely spike your blood sugar, and increase insulin, leaving you hungry again just a short time later and you’re already looking for your next snack or meal. Scenario 2: If you pair only half of your banana with almond butter, your blood sugar doesn’t rise as much, which decreases the amount of insulin needed, and leaves you feeling stable until your next meal. Fat is also imperative for proper brain functioning, nutrient absorption, and hormone production.
Protein is necessary to build and repair muscle in the body. Adequate protein intake assists in weight management by ensuring the body burns fat instead of burning off muscle. When consumed it has a naturally minimal effect on blood sugar levels and only requires a small amount of insulin for metabolism.
Fiber is important for appetite control, blood sugar control, decreased inflammation and gut health. Fibers are carbohydrates that are not digested by the human body. Some fibers have a “bulking” effect where it sits in your stomach making you feel full and feel full longer, and in turn reducing your appetite. Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, also slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream after consuming a meal to manage glucose levels. Because fiber is not digested, it remains relatively unchanged through the digestive system until it reaches the gut where the friendly bacteria can turn it into usable energy. This is a prebiotic effect that is linked to good health and body weight. By feeding the good gut bacteria, fiber is also assisting in reducing inflammation caused by bad bacteria. Inflammation is a well-known cause of disease, including obesity.
Combining these three nutrients into every meal is a sure way to feel satisfied and satiated after each meal, keeps you feeling full until your next meal, and allows you to burn fat between meals. All of which will aid in weight loss and management. Plus, you can add as many green veggies as you’d like to any of your meals in addition to these three components and still lose or maintain weight! No calorie counting, no advanced meal planning, no restricting, no “hangry-ness.” Just healthy, balanced, delicious meals that will retrain your body to find its optimal weight.
*Don’t stress about knowing exactly what your blood sugar level is. There’s no need to complicate this with glucometers and numbers. Learn to listen to your body. Honor its true hunger signals. (a future post will dive more into this concept)
I have never had more freedom around food than I do now since employing these guidelines into my life. I don’t obsess. I don’t “fall off the wagon” because there is no stupid wagon to hang on to anymore. I maintain a healthy weight that feels good for me and it couldn’t be simpler.
For more information, meal ideas containing fat, fiber, and protein, or any questions at all, please reach out! I’m happy to listen and happy to help.
Love and Light,